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Quantifying regional inequality.

How do we measure regional inequality and what's it got to do with Brexit?

Today UK in a Changing Europe, a research group hosted by King's College London, are launching the 2021 edition of their Brexit and Beyond report. I wrote one of the sections on regional inequality.

This is a short blog post to link to my sources so that people can check what we've done, improve it, and re-use it for their own purposes.

Regional inequality, how we can measure it, how we should measure it, and why many measurements are wrong and misleading, is something that we've worked on from the first days of ODILeeds. We've always worked in the open on this, as with all of our projects.

Our methods are open on GitHub. Our explanations are detailed across many blog posts. We publish tools visualising regional inequality within countries today, and in the past, all the way back to 1900.

The UK is Western Europe's most regionally unequal large economy. Probably.

Regional inequality within the UK is undoubtedly high, and has been rising. But a statistical correction needed to make the figures comparable with other countries in Europe shows that we are not as bad as we think.

Regional inequality within the UK is very high, though not as high as often claimed. When we adjust for how geographies are recorded differently in the UK to create the UK* measure, regional inequality drops to being the same as in France.

In a surprise to many, North England's economy is unusually regionally equal within Western Europe.

We can get a feel for this by comparing North England with the Netherlands, something we have done often as part of our Northernlands conferences in recent years. With a population equal to the Netherlands, but an economy significantly smaller, North England has almost no regions with economies as strong as prosperous parts of the Netherlands.

North England's unusually low regional inequality is a result not of uniform prosperity, but of nearly uniform economic weakness.

Regional inequality in the past.

Using the fantastic Ros├ęs and Wolf database we have been able in recent months to calculate regional inequality within the UK as far back as 1900. Comparing with today's figures we see that the UK has risen from one of Europe's most regionally equal economies in 1900 to one of the most regionally unequal.

Between 1900 and 1920 the UK (not including what is today the Republic of Ireland) was one of Europe's most regionally equal countries. Today it is one of Europe's most regionally unequal. In the same time many others countries such as Spain and Germany have grown more regionally equal.

We hope that these tools and this analaysis are useful to people and that you enjoyed reading my piece for UK in a Changing Europe. Thanks as always to our sponsors who help us to do things like this, in particular on this project the University of Leeds.